Stay engaged in life! is the watchword here at Women’s Voices. We celebrate our writers’ urge to challenge themselves—to climb Mount Kilimanjaro at 60, for instance, or to venture back to the cabaret stage in midlife, to enter college for the first time at 49.

So this week we were struck with admiration on reading the tale of horse breeder Barbara Smith, who just completed the Mongol Derby, “the longest and toughest horse race in the world.” During a grueling eight-day, 625-mile race in Mongolia she rode 28 semi-wild ponies on a route that traces Genghis Khan’s legendary long-distance horse-relay postal system, devised in 1224. She traversed “unfamiliar and difficult terrain, high mountain passes, rivers and desert dunes.” Here’s how Next Avenue renders the tale.

One evening, heading into the final station of the day, Smith and her fellow front riders took a high pass through a mountain ridge. “There was a storm coming, and we were being pelted with hail,” she recalls. “There was lightening [sic]. I looked over to my left, and three wolves were watching us—two big black ones and a gray one sitting on the hill. We made it in by the skin of our teeth that night.”

Smith turned 61 at the close of the race; she was the oldest rider, and she finished in the top 10.

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